June 5, 2013 4:18PM
Updated: June 5, 2013 8:52PM
Donna Hall’s favorite spot is the left corner of her brown couch. From that spot, she can see the urn that holds her murdered son’s ashes. She can talk to him and tell him she is all right. She feels safe there.
Her son, Marshall Fields-Hall, 21, was fatally shot in the back on Jan. 18 while sitting in a Popeye’s restaurant on North Avenue in the Austin neighborhood.
The urn lives in the middle of the coffee table, next to an open Bible. The table is covered with family photographs, candles, poems and prayer cards — momentos of mourning in an alter of personal tragedy.
This is what Hall looks at every day.
“It’s like I have no will to do anything,” Hall says.
Before all this, Hall walked the streets of her North Austin neighborhood as a mail carrier.
Now the thought of leaving the house makes her nervous. The thought of working again in her neighborhood terrifies her.
“When I say I am not ready to go back to work, it’s because I might deliver mail to these people’s house that had something to do with it,” she says. “I delivered mail to Popeye’s many days.”
When she musters the courage to leave, it’s a quick trip to the store, then right back home. The outing might last longer if she is meeting other mothers, who, like her, have lost children to violence. Among them is Ashake Burns, who took Hall her under her wing. Their children were cousins.
Though they cry, Hall feels her best when she is with them. They know the pain of losing a child to a gun. The heartbreak returns when she remembers Marshall.
“Once you pull that trigger, you can’t pull that bullet back,” she says.
The group of mothers — her new friends — tattooed their fingers in solidarity. She displays her right pinkie finger to reveal her script, “Promise.”
“Promise to always be there for each other no matter what.” Hall says.
Hall wonders where she will go from here. She is frustrated police haven’t found her son’s killer.
Maybe then she can return to work, to a normal life, whatever normal is now.
She requested a job transfer to South Haven, Miss. She has had enough of the violence.
“I just don’t want to deal with Chicago,” Hall says while packing her car full of clothes for her first drive south to Mississippi over the Memorial Day weekend. “I just can’t deal with it.”
This week the Bible on her alter to Marshall is opento John, Chapter 3, verse 16:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
That will be the final verse the Bible is opened to before Hall leaves Chicago behind for a new life in Mississippi.
The new beginning she has been craving starts Friday, when Hall packs Marshall’s urn in her car and leaves behind the only city she has ever known.
Hall feels she must leave Chicago. Forever. She can’t imagine burying her son in Chicago ground, leaving him here alone.
“Whenever I leave,” Hall says, “I can take him with me.”